By Lisa Respers France, CNN
Stanley Tucci knows a lot more about food now than he used to.
That makes sense considering he’s now rolling out the second season of his Emmy-winning CNN series, “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” The show follows Tucci as he travels around Italy, learning about – and educating his audience – on the food, people and culture of the country.
The lessons have come in handy for the Oscar-nominated actor, who also loves to cook.
“Now I know why something doesn’t work and that’s a really important thing to know,” Tucci recently told CNN. “It sounds like a negative thing, but it’s not. You go ‘Oh, all this needs is this.'”
For instance, the day he talked to CNN, the star described a hearty dish he had just made for himself in which he sauteed beans in onion and garlic, added carrots and celery, turned it into a soup with chicken stock and added it to pasta, naturally.
Tucci, it seems, has also discovered the right recipe for a resonate food show. He recalled a friend telling him about a family member who is a driver in Italy receiving requests from tourists for “the Stanley Tucci tour.”
Tucci said the new season of “Searching for Italy” incorporates footage shot through a wider lens to better show the audience the “‘connection between the people and the food and the space” in Italy.
It’s the type of aesthetic adjustment one would expect from a man who has spent decades telling stories through movies and television.
“The great thing was we were always learning by discovering new things, but you were also discovering all these incredible people and all these new incredible places,” he said about working on “Searching for Italy.”
One of the first episodes in Season 2 lands Tucci in a especially meaningful place.
The star was joined by his parents, Stanley Tucci, Sr. and Joan (née Tropiano) for an episode set in Calabria, where his family has roots.
“It was great,” Tucci said of walking the same streets with his parents where his ancestors had lived. “It was really moving to me.”
Family and food go hand in hand for Tucci. He said he wants to pass his love and respect for food onto his children.
“That they appreciate the effort that people go through to grow good food, to raise good food and then to cook good food,” he said of his hopes for his kids. “That they really end up having an appreciation for that. And then cooking good food and sharing good food, all the wonderful things that come from that.”
Tucci told CNN he has always had an intellectual curiosity about food.
“When we made [his 1996 film] ‘Big Night’ a long time ago, this movie we made almost 30 years ago, I thought that my affection for food, I would have gotten it out of my system,” Tucci said. “But no, the opposite happened and I became more and more interested in it.”
So much so, Tucci says it is difficult for him to go into a restaurant he likes and end up “not insinuating myself into the kitchen.”
Does that mean chefs don’t invite Tucci, a noted cookbook author of “Taste: My Life Through Food,” to the back of the house?
“Well, they do,” Tucci said laughing. “They usually do.”
It’s a unique position to be in for a man who in 2017 was diagnosed with oral cancer and had a tumor removed his tongue.
He said his metabolism is even higher now since he underwent radiation as part of his cancer treatment and that – along with working out – has helped him to not pile on the pounds while dining for work.
Tucci said the show started filming a little over a year after he had completed treatment.
“I don’t even know how I did it, I’ll be honest,” he said. “I was probably about 15 pounds lighter than I am now. I could taste everything, but I couldn’t really eat a lot of stuff. I had to be really careful.”
“Luckily I’m an actor so I would sometimes pretend I was swallowing something,” he added, smiling.
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